Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fishing Cold Water - Part 18
Please be advised that these articles will be worth far more and make more sense if you read the previously
So far, I have only written about the fact that slow moving water that's underneath fast moving
water is difficult to fish. The subject of water hydraulics isn't easy to describe with words alone
but you can surely visualize that only the configuration of the bottom of the stream affects the
difference in the speed of the current near the top of the water versus the speed of the
current on the bottom.
I mentioned that if the stream's bottom is relatively flat, meaning it is without holes in the
bottom and/or rocks and boulders that protrude up off the bottom, the water on the bottom of
the stream will be flowing at about the same speed as the water on the surface. In the small
streams of the Smokies that's rarely the case, but I mention it to illustrate the point that only
holes, dropoffs, and obstructions in the water (rocks,boulders) change the speed of the
If you have read the previous articles, you also know that I mentioned several times that trout
in very cold water will not hold in fast current. I explained why they seek slow moving water. I
also pointed out that there's probably as much slow moving water beneath fast moving water
as there is slow moving water found in pools and pockets.
When your fishing a nymph or larvae in a run near or on the bottom, you will frequently be
confronted with different current speeds at different depths of the water. The water doesn't
have to be cold for this to be of concern. Being able to present a fly at the same speed of
slower currents underneath faster surface currents will improve your fishing anytime your
fishing deeper runs.
If your fly passes a trout holding on or near the bottom in slow moving water at a much faster
speed than the current the trout is in holding in, the fly will probably tend to spook the fish.
Nymphs and larvae don't shoot downstream faster than the current. They crawl on the bottom
or if they are up in the water column off the bottom a few inches, they drift at the same speed
of the current, not faster than the current. The trout spend their entire life observing the
nymphs and larvae on the streambed. Your not going to fool very many trout into taking your
fly for the real thing if it isn't acting like the real things. Also, keep in mind that in cold water,
the fly needs to be presented very close to the trout. Trout are not going to chase down their
food in water that's very cold. They need little food to survive and they will only eat what's
easy for them to acquire.
Now that I've roughly summarized the reasons you need to learn to fish slow water beneath
fast water, the question some of you probably have is "how do you go about accomplishing
that"?. The solution is to keep the fly line, leader and tippet upstream of the fly that's
on or near the bottom. That's all you need to do; however, that's like saying all you need to
do to win a race is go faster than everyone else.
The best method to use to accomplish this is called "high sticking". The problem is
"high sticking" only works in certain types of water and only under circumstances where you
can stay hidden from the trout that are fairly close to you. There's many situations where this
method of fishing won't work. It won't work in deep water or water too deep to wade. It won't
work in very strong currents where wading is difficult. It won't work in situations where you
cannot stay hidden from the trout. In these situations, there are other methods of fishing that
will work. Today, I am only going to cover "high sticking". I will get to other ways to fish slow
water beneath fast water in another article. I also won't get into the basics of "high sticking".
That's another topic that's well beyond the scope of fishing cold water. I have previously
written articles about the "high sticking" method of fishing.
First of all, don't be shy about adding weight to the tippet. Crimp on enough split-shot weight
to get the fly down on the bottom quickly. I place it about eight or ten inches above the fly. I
also tend to use multiple lead split-shots instead of one large one simply because you can
adjust the weight by adding and removing the smaller size split-shot. With one large one, you
cannot do that. Also, be sure you don't crimp the split-shot on too tightly. You will flatten out
the nylon or flouro tippet and weaken it. The size of the tippet should be based on the size of
the fly your fishing but always as light as you can get by with.
When your "high sticking", the fly line shouldn't ever be lying on the water. The purpose of the
method is to keep the fly line off the water. Neither should the leader be lying across the
water. Ideally, the short amount of fly line that's out of your guides, the entire leader and the
tippet should all be in a straight line from the tip of the rod to the fly. The presentation is made
up and across the current. I didn't use the word vertical, I used the word straight.
If the current on the surface is moving very fast, the very first thing you want to do after the fly
hits the water is move the tip of the fly rod upstream of the fly as far as you can reach your
extended arm. You adjust the extent you reach upstream depending on the depth and speed
of the water and the speed at which the fly sinks. Get it on the bottom fast as you can without
using a cannon ball for a weight.
With your polarized glasses, you should be able to clearly see the angle at which the leader is
headed into the water as opposed to the section of the leader that's out of the water. You
want to keep the part of the leader that's above the water upstream of the fly Remember,
even if the leader is perfectly straight, there will always appear to be a bend in the leader due
to the refraction of light. If you don't understand what I mean by that, just stick the tip of your
fly rod down in the water about two or three feet and you will see this bending I'm referring to.
The bending appearance is due to the difference in the speed of light through water versus
air. Don't let this optical illusion affect how the leader is headed into the water.
If the part of the leader in the water appears to be bend upstream of the section of the leader
above the water, the fly is obviously upstream of the point the leader enters the water. That
isn't good. You want just the opposite of that. You want the fly downstream of the point the
leader enters the water. You can control this with the tip of the fly rod. You want the rod tip to
follow the fly as it drifts downstream, but you should always keep the rod tip well upstream of
the fly. If you don't control the speed of the drift with the rod tip, the fast current in the upper
water column will pull the leader, tippet and fly downstream faster than the current on the
bottom is moving. Swing the rod tip downstream slowly, much slower than the current on the
surface is flowing.
You can determine the speed of the current on the bottom by the angle of the leader in the
water versus the angle of the leader above the water. If the water on the bottom is moving at
the same speed as the water on the surface, you will see a big bend in the leader at the point
it enters the water. If the water on the bottom is moving much slower than the surface water
(which is the ideal condition you are looking for when you fishing cold water) the obvious
"bend" or angle of the leader at the point it enters the water will be much less.
With a little practice and experience at doing this, you can easily determine the difference in
the speed of the water on the bottom versus the surface. You can control the speed the fly is
drifting downstream irrespective of the uppermost current. This enables you to present the fly
to trout holding in the slow water on the bottom at the same speed of the water on the bottom.
Even if the current on the bottom is moving fast, keep the speed of the drifting fly slow. At any
point during the drift, the fly may drop down into a hole where trout are holding or go around a
large rock on the bottom that has slow moving water behind where trout may be holding out of
One thing you can count on. If the water is cold (below 45 degrees) and the fly is drifting fast,
you will catch about the same number of trout at home on the couch as you will standing in
the water waving your stick.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh